1943 Copper Penny - Is Yours Genuine or Fake?

The 1943 Penny Was Minted in Steel, Not Copper

Diagnostics for a Genuine 1943 Copper Penny
Diagnostics for a Genuine 1943 Copper Penny. James Bucki

1943 Steel Pennies

If you have a 1943 penny that looks like it is made out of copper, here is how you can authenticate it and tell if it is a genuine 1943 copper penny or a fake one. First of all, be aware that the 1943 penny was issued in zinc-coated steel because the USA needed copper for the war effort. Any genuine 1943 copper pennies are extremely rare mint errors. Learn more about your silver-colored 1943 Steel Penny.

Copper Plated 1943 Fakes

At one time genuine 1943 Steel pennies were copper plated and sold as novelty items at coin shows and flea markets. Many of these coins were then spent and ended up in circulation alongside genuine Lincoln cents. Over time, people who knew that 1943 Lincoln pennies were supposed to made out of zinc-plated steel would recognize these coins and think that they had found a rare mint error.

The easiest way to tell if your 1943 copper cent is merely a copper-plated steel penny is to test it with a magnet. If the magnet sticks to the penny, it's made of steel which has been dipped or plated in copper. Such a penny is worth about 15 cents as a novelty item. This is the most common method of deception in making a genuine 1943 steel penny look like it was made out of pure copper.

Altered 1948 Lincoln Cent

If your 1943 copper colored penny doesn't stick to a magnet, then look at the date carefully (using a magnifying glass, if possible).

If the tail of the 3 does not extend well below the "line" of numbers, it is probably a cut-in-half 8 (see the photo above). A very common fraud involving the copper 1943 cent is to grind away part of the 8 in the date of a 1948 penny. If the 3 in your date looks like half of an 8, your coin is not a genuine 1943 copper penny.

Chinese Counterfeit Coins

There are some high-quality counterfeit coins that are being manufactured in China. These are made to resemble a genuine 1943 Lincoln cent, but the Chinese counterfeiters use copper blanks. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell the difference between a genuine 1943 copper penny and a Chinese counterfeit. Fortunately, Lincoln cent experts at third party grading services can tell the difference by closely inspecting the coin under a stereo microscope.

Seek a Second Opinion

If your 1943 penny does not stick to a magnet and the last digit in the date "3" does not look like it was altered from a 1948 penny, then you should seek a second opinion from a qualified coin dealer for a professional opinion. Most dealers do not charge to have a look at your coins and give you an informal verbal appraisal. If they believe it is authentic, you can ask them to submit it to a third party grading service on your behalf.

Edited by James Bucki